Jury Verdicts in Medical Malpractice Cases Are Subject to Caps in Damages
Many medical negligence claims are not prosecuted because doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers have been given special protection against damage claims. In Ohio, the legislature placed caps on non-economic damages for persons injured because of the negligence of a doctor or hospital. Non-economic damages include such things as pain, suffering, and inability to perform certain activities. In cases involving non-catastrophic injuries, the injured person is limited to $250,000 in non-economic damages or three times economic losses, capped at $350,000. If the injured person has suffered a permanent and substantial physical deformity, loss of use of a limb, loss of a bodily organ system, or permanent physical injury that prevents self-care, the amount is capped at $500,000.
The trouble is that this formula allows some serious cases to fall through the cracks. In many cases, the non-economic damages are rather substantial. Our office represented a boy who due to a doctor's misreading of an x-ray, sustained a permanent injury to his hip. Although he can walk with a limp, he did not suffer the loss of use of his legs and was limited in his recovery of non-economic damages to $350,000. Without this cap on damages, a jury would likely have awarded him much more because he could no longer engage in physical sporting activities or physical work.
The jury is still the best way to decide individual cases. Each case is different and the jury can tailor its award to the specific facts in the case. It is interesting that although the jury system is under attack by insurance companies and the medical community, when a lawsuit is filed, the insurance companies and medical community invariably make a jury demand, insisting that the case be tried to a jury. Caps on damages were not put in place because juries could not be trusted. These caps were placed to limit recoveries against medical providers and save money to their malpractice carriers. As a result, many people can no longer receive a full recovery of harms and losses when their case goes before a jury.